Main level floor affected by basement flooding

Q: In August we had some water in the basement. The temperatures outside were outrageous, high 30’s with humidity in the 40’s. Once the water was abated the Insurance company aggressively dried the basement. There were 3-4 dehumidifiers and about 10-11 large fans. Immediately after the fans and dehumidifiers were removed I noticed that my engineered hardwood floors on my MAIN floor were starting to sound like dry timbers.

It has only become worse over the past couple of months so I am not at all confident that it will “reverse” itself like I was told may or may not happen. The floors were only put in 3 years ago and this is a real P*@@off! Could this very well be from the amount of equipment used to dry out the basement? The kitchen is right off from the basement and it somewhat open concept. The kitchen opens to the dining room which is open concept to the living room, which is where the majority of the floor issues are. Thanks.

A: I have a few questions: exactly how much water did you get in your basement? What is the flooring down there? Do you have a raised sub floor? Is the engineered flooring glued or nailed down? Have you noticed any humps, gaps between boards or cupping where the edges of the boards are raised?

Follow-up Q: The basement had an even 4 inches of water throughout. All the laminate was ripped out. But the damage and my questions are regarding my main floor. After the drying of the basement, we noticed the main floor; engineered hardwood nailed down with high grade underlay, started to make cracking sounds when walking on it. Even the drywall coming up from the basement cracked from being dried out so aggressively.

A: Well having that volume of water being absorbed by the surrounding structure you will get expansion. Then as it dries out or equalizes there will be shrinkage. The nails or cleats used to secure your engineered floor don’t expand however. They may pull or stretch a tiny amount but after everything dries out you floor will not be as tight as it was before. The less gradual a round of this expanding and contracting is, the more severe will be the results. During this process, I think it may have been wise for the insurance contractor to be monitoring everything with a moisture meter.

Similar Q: I had my floors refinished on the main floor. Two weeks later the water heater in the basement flooded. A couple days after the flood, the hardwood flooring above the water heater area ruptured and cupped. Is this due to the moisture from the water heater flooding from below in the same area?

A: I would think it is caused by that. How long did it take to clean up the flood? This is unfortunate. The only thing to do with these cupped floors is to give them time to stabilize. Hopefully they might flatten out on their own. It would be a good idea to have a dehumidifier running in the basement until all moisture is removed. If you have a hygrometer in the area it will tell you what the relative humidity in the area is.

Follow-up Q: Thank you for your response. The dehumidifier took about 2 weeks to get all the water out of the carpet in the basement. That’s why I think the upstairs floors ruptured and cupped. On my house insurance, I’m having issues proving to them that my hardwood floors were damaged and affected by the moisture caused by the flooding in the basement and they require proof in order to include the upstairs floors that is cupped and damaged above the flooded area. What proof can I provide to the insurance company that the upstairs flooring was damaged due to the flooded floors in the basement?

A: Contact the National Wood Flooring Association. They have inspectors fully trained who will come to your house for an inspection and write up a report. A number of years ago I was installing oak flooring on a main floor of a very old house and I found out that they were having a new concrete floor poured in the basement while I was installing this hardwood. I was very concerned about the volume of moisture that would be hitting the subfloor I was installing the oak onto. They stapled plastic sheeting to the bottom edge of the floor joists in the basement before pouring the cement.

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